Big Bear

Lake Arrowhead History


Lake Arrowhead

With the newly constructed dam at Bear Valley, Redlands farmers now enjoyed an abundant supply of water. However, San Bernardino city engineer, Adolph H. Koebig, needed an irrigation project that would supply water to San Bernardino. In 1890, he designed a massive plan that required the construction of several dams. His plan also called for about sixty miles of inter-connecting tunnels to be cut through the mountains to divert the natural flow of water away from the desert side and into the San Bernardino valley. The project was going to be expensive. He found a group of investors back east in Ohio who were willing to finance the plan. They formed the "Arrowhead Revision Company" with James Gamble of the "Proctor & Gamble Soap Company" as president.Lake Arrowhead Dam Problems with the massive project started almost immediately . Late payments to contractors and lawsuits over "right of ways" brought tunnel drilling to a halt time after time. After the first year, Koebig grew frustrated with the company and quit the project. It wasn't until 1904, after eleven years of drilling tunnels, that construction on the Lake Arrowhead dam actually began. The design called for a 184 foot high, earth filled dam with a concrete core wall. Two steam shovels, two locomotives, miles of track, rail dump cars, and tons of concrete were hauled up the steep Waterman Canyon road to the dam site. By 1908, the unfinished dam had reached a height of 90 feet, and water was allowed to start filling the lake bed. As the water rose, the corewall of the dam started to crack. Construction was halted while repairs to the dam were made. After two years of repairs the lake started filling again. The dam cracked once again. A new engineer by the name of F.E. Trask stepped in and finally solved the problem once and for all. But, in 1912, at a height of 160 feet, disaster struck. It turns out that former San Bernardino City engineer Adolph Koebig, the man who orginally had started this project, now posed it's greatest threat. After Koebig quit in 1892, he went to Victorville and helped get the desert land owners organized and file an action in the courts preventing the "Arrowhead Reservoir Company" from diverting any of the desert watershed to San Bernardino. So, after investing millions of dollars and 22 years of hard work, the Arrowhead Reservoir CompanyLake Arrowhead Village had 6 1/2 miles of tunnels that could never be used, and a lake full of water they weren't allowed to sell. However, it was realized at this point, that in addition to the new lake, they also owned the land around it, and during the last 20 years vacationing in the San Bernardino mountains had grown enormously. The land was now worth thousands of times what they had paid for it. So in 1921, they sold the lake and all of it's land to a Los Angeles syndicate called the "Arrowhead Lake Company". They changed the name from the "Little Bear Lake" to "Lake Arrowhead" and began a massive development program that included raising the height of the dam to 184 feet, and constructing a Norman English style Village. The Company spent over $8,000,000 in the development program. From the wreakage of a failed irrigation project, Lake Arrowhead became a showcase vacation community that attracted some of the most affluent people and celebrities from all over Southern California. Years later, in 1979, the Lake Arrowhead Village was demolished in a controlled fire by the Fire Protection District.
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